Writing Despite Obstacles: How NOT to give up on Nanowrimo when life throws you a curve ball

I would swear that every time I have a leap of inspiration for THE BIG IDEA the very next thing that happens is a series of small obstacles, or something wherein I’m the caretaker and it’s a priority interrupt. It’s so hard, I know, but the key to thriving when this happens is to not see it as the death of your BIG IDEA but, instead, to know that perhaps you actually were on the right track and this is your challenge: to allow your creative spirit to still have a voice and not be trampled into the dust by circumstances.

Have you seen those shows with the main characters stuck in a maze, with high stakes decisions (perhaps life and death) and at every turn it seems like the end of the road – until there’s someone who sees a unique solution or finds a hidden button or can jump over the bushes? That’s what an intense writing season may appear like especially if you have family concerns and other issues that arise in tandem with your creative dreams.

I’m even having that this week! A dentist did poor work in the past, and now I’ll need a major procedure that will take me offline a few days at least. There are three other urgent matters also capturing my attention. But I’ve faced worse and somehow learned to return repeatedly to writing in small increments, knowing it would yield fruit over time. Heck, I even learned how to keep writing book drafts, magazine and blog articles, and scripts for presentations when we didn’t even have a home and I was trying to get basic provisions in line after a wildfire took our home. So, just know these three tips are well tested and honed over time.

Three big Nanowrimo suggestions:

Bulk-writing sessions

Nanowrimo is proposed as the write a little each day and it adds up approach which is super effective unless you’re facing obstacles. It can lead to panic for those who’ve had life interrupts. I’m taking a different tact that has worked well for me in the past. I acknowledge that this is an intense time and understand my priorities. My self-care situation is going to be on high alert out of necessity. But for me, I’m planning a few long bursts of work rather than a little each day. I’m unable to write daily due to this dental procedure and other urgent matters, alas, at least for a couple weeks of this month. But I’m not giving up. It really helps to throw your frustration in and transform it with creative juices into a passionate story situation.

It’s in no way a failure to plan a few Saturdays that are dedicated solely to writing instead of the daily approach. I learned about needing this procedure right before Nano so I’ve lowered my word-count hopes for the month and will look for opportunities next month to catch up. The main message I want you to hear is – don’t give up! No means maybe. Adapt. Find your lane for this season of your life and when your friends come in with huge word counts, just say to yourself – great, I’m going to work in a dedicated timeslot with that ferocity of focus and that’s what my life will allow right now.

Use the Force, Luke

I attended my first writing conference ages ago and tried very hard to sit at the back of the room so I could observe and learn, and saved a chair with my jacket and writing pad. But during the break, while I was in another room, they switched the room’s focus and the speaker was right in front of me, so I was inadvertently seated in the center of the front row. I figured that whatever he was going to say must be very important for me personally. Boy, was it! He said he had great news for half the group and the other half would hate him by the end of his talk. It was all about finding and following your natural rhythm for writing. Have you been working for years on a project but never finishing it? (YES! I shouted within!). How did he know this was true? I was on the edge of my seat.

Basically, he recommended working with your natural tendency, which was super news for all the night-owls in the audience. They could finally be justified in staying up late to get the words in. But my stomach sank. He was a busy lawyer and had been able to write two great novels by working in spurts for a month or two at a time and rising very early before the family was up to do the work. I just knew he was right, and this was THE WAY. For years since, this has been my main approach to work in the early morning time set. I find that creating before noon is my best “lane” and I can work very early (even at 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m.) for a limited burst of time to get the words down or organize a project. I save editing for later in the day. So, consider using your best time frame to complete your work! (And don’t hate me too much!).

Bursts require rest

One final recommendation is if you are brave enough to plan burst-writing sprints and use the force (meaning, get up super early or stay up late) is to realize it cannot be sustained without planning rest as well. I tend to have days where I’m “on” and my thinking is super clear and I’m working at a high level of efficiency and creativity at the same time. But for each day of super-girl level of work, I’m going to need rest. This is my current area needing improvement, planning not only for a keen workday but also for healthy food and down days in between to recharge. Even my phone needs recharging, why wouldn’t I need that too?

By no means do I have everything figured out, but creating room for grace by planning burst writing sessions if the daily format won’t work, rising early to find a place for creativity in a quiet home, and planning more restful days afterwards is my personal Nanowrimo recipe this month. If you need grace, and yet want to achieve the words and make your story sing, try this work-around for your obstacles and let’s find our way through the life-maze together.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Van Tassel has lived with diamonds, wildfires, and miracles. The Graduate Gemologist and communication specialist speaks about adventures with heart. But life is rarely all sparkle. Elizabeth’s family lost everything, save what the fire fighters put outside as a remnant during a large, terrible wildfire. Determined to thrive, rather than just get by, she spots potential as much as she finds inclusions in her microscope. Her creative eye and stories help others rise above circumstances, finding hope and courage. Using her background with gemology, ten years in corporate marketing and public relations, and youth work, Elizabeth explores current topics full of depth and intrigue for tweens and teens. She writes middle grade fantasy and also speaks and blogs for adults and kids on living a diamond-resilient life. For more Nanowrimo tips, follow her on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/elizabethvantassel/ or you can find more resources on her website: https://www.elizabethvantassel.com/.

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